What Do Bears And Wolves In Yellowstone National Park Do When No One's Watching?

What do bears and wolves do in the woods of Yellowstone National Park when they don't think anyone is around? As these photos show, they're not going after each other tooth and claw. Photos by Nancy Ward, NPS.

How do grizzly bears and wolves in Yellowstone National Park carry on when they don't think anyone is watching? Well, as these pictures show, they're not going after each other tooth and claw.

Nancy Ward, the park's acting chief of maintenance, was heading to Lake for a meeting back on May 4, before the park's interior roads were open for the public, when she spied a wolf and another animal in a snow-covered drainage.

As she continued on, she thought the other animal might be a bison struggling in the snow. With some time to spare, she turned around and headed back to where she had seen the animals. This is what she discovered:

There was a spot cleared right across the river from these two. Once I stopped I was able to look closely and saw the wolf was "playing" with a grizzly bear. I thought they might be attracted to a carcass, but there was no food around. The bear rolled on its back with its feet in the air. It also slid around the snow. The wolf stayed close, checking things out. The bear approached the wolf and they appeared to sniff around each other and on the ground. I had my camera so I took several pictures. They interacted for more than five minutes and then they both walked up the small drainage and out of sight. I don't know if that's a common type of encounter, but I doubt I will ever see it again!


They have more sense than our politicians!


Ms. Ward, however, is just reaping the rewards of being one privileged to actually live and work in Yellowstone.

Yes, I believe you are correct, Pam:). Going afield here but WE do elect them (politicians):). The Griz and Wolf probably did not get consensus or take a vote before they decided to act "civilly," lol! Animals are so smart...

Why not? I've seen grackles play with squirrels, and deer play with rabbits (no, I'm not confusing what I've seen with Bambi). People like to play with dogs, cats, horses, etc. Why not two other intelligent species play?

This is an amazing story, one you rarely if ever see in the wildlife documentaries. Thanks for sharing.

This is the real mother nature. We need to learn from every animal in nature. Good story to share with. Thanks.

From the size, this looks like a young grizzly. That might explain them being more apt to play. Interesting, either way...

There are hundreds of positions in Yellowstone and keeping them filled can be a challenge! If you're willing to work a seasonal position and not make much (monetarily), the other benefits are phenomenal. It's an experience of a lifetime!

Amazing catch, Nancy! Thanks for sharing. Congrats on the acting position as well.

The wolf is following the bear because the bear digs up things (old dead animals). The wolf lets the bear do the hard work then comes in for the little pieces. It appears in the picture they are close but in reality the wolf is probably 10 feet in front or behind the bear. It's just the angle of the picture that throws things off.

Man: The only animal that doesn't communicate.

Bears are bigger than wolves. If you see a photo where they look similar in size -- like these -- it means that the wolf is a lot closer to the camera than the bear. He is keeping a healthy distance.

Just curious, but did you actually read the story?

They are both on their way to punch their timecards for the day. Everything I needed to know I learned from Looney Tunes.
You remember that cartoon:

It looks to be a juvinile bear. As such it's not a lot bigger than a full grown adult wolf. I love the speculative explanations about perspective though...except they seem to fly in the face of logic considering the 2nd picture has the wolf behind the bear, sniffing at its legs.
As I understand it, young bears can be quite playful, are highly curious and can be social with other animals. Wolves have many of the traits of dogs as social animals. It is not a complete shock to see to two social animals who aren't competing for food or territory interact like this.
It's an amazing photo set, but only for the rarity of being able to capture such an event as I'm sure it usually happens away from the eyes of man - it's fortunate that neither subject noticed the human taking photos in that regard.

Probably looking for Bagheera and Mowgli.

It's either a juvenile bear, or a king-hell BIG wolf.

We have seen several images in "Nat Geo" of Polar Bears interacting with Sled Dogs in a similar manner. Does not seem too far a stretch to see this happening -- for "who cares what" reason... I think this is a moment that was shared to inspire humans to put aside differences and try to tolerate others.

This is not so unusual, as can be seen in this video… bears are now seen "playing" with dogs.
Yes, we can learn a lot from nature… silly humans!

Great & Lucky catch of these two!I live just outside Yellowstone and have never seen anything quite like it. Thanks!

Dances with bears! I wish i'd seen that! :)

My sentiments exactly Bob, also man - the most destructive, cruel species.

Sadly - The Politicians took away the Wolf's endangered status. So enjoy this photo as the wolves will be wiped out....AGAIN form political stupidity and greed.

this just proves that we humans could learn bunches from the animal world...

Sir. Clearly you are no film student. Your cynicism is unwelcome, and unwanted. Take a moment from your bitter and drab life to enjoy a wonder of Nature. If you were to even casually examine the angles of the shadows, and the blending of them in one shot, you WOULD see, were you capable of perceiving (which I doubt) that these animals are, indeed, in close proximity. The reason for this is irrelevant to the occurence.
Maybe go out and see something wonderful, yourself, before you so glibly and negatively comment on the photos? Or, better yet, try for something better?

Amazing! two very intelligent creatures enjoying one anothers company. If you look at postures of both the wolf and bear you notice both in relaxed, comfortable states. The bear is going about his/her business with it's head down smelling for food. The wolf's tail is hanging loosely behind not showing a dominant nor a submissive state but rather just a relaxed situation. Wildlife is so interesting to watch and if more humans took the time to open their eye's to see and appreciate this kind of behavior this could become a better place for all creatures of the planet.

Matt for president.

Mr. Negative also forget to mention that Bears also follow wolves for feeding reasons. It is not uncommon to see a grizz hanging back while the wovles do the hunting and killing only to move in and steal the wolves food. We saw this several times in 08 by slough creek. Once on the slope to the right (as your facing) of the den and then again to the lower left. I miss Yellowstone!!!

Interesting to watch also how after summer cattle use was eliminated at Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, the survival rate of new born Antelope crashed to less than 1%. I frequently watched coyotes teaming up to draw the doe away while it's partner moved in and killed the new born. The mother cows did quite well at defending their own and Antelope newborns running off predators. The Antelope also preferred the shorter new green growth after the tall rank grasses were grazed. The coyotes were quite thrilled and multiplied (go forth:).

Jon: How eloquently said! Naysayers and the"glibly" negative would do well to restrict their erroneous observations and opine on subjects they are well versed in, namely man, and leave nature alone.

Those that have spent most of their lives in and a part of nature instead of English Lit/Grammar/Environmental Agenda Based Liberal learning institutions would know that the facts/observations posted by Choices are true and correct realities, all be it inconvenient and disconcerting to the new age environmentalism/industry (apparently).

Sorry Lisula, truth is stranger than fiction for some. If you're referring to what I posted directly before your post. Nature is nature (including us) no matter how we try to believe we're "above it all."

How do they communicate?

I guess there is no point them fighting when they are not competeing for a food source, leave their strength for when they need it.